The elaborate dance of diplomacy can often present a complex matrix of challenges and rewards. Striking precisely the right balance especially when caught in the ongoing global rivalry between the United States and China, could prove to be a tricky task for any government. Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin of Thailand has indeed found himself in this predicament, however, he seems to have handled it with expertise.
Marking his first overseas trip after assuming the premier’s position, the Prime Minister set his course to New York. His agenda revolved around the 78th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA78) in New York and related meetings. While there, he engaged in talks with national leaders, key individuals at both bilateral and multilateral levels, and heads of international organisations. He also found some time to mingle with executives of global leading companies, such as Tesla’s Elon Musk, to discuss possible investment opportunities in Thailand. After this visit to the US, he plans to head to China, throwing light on his strategic approach to maintaining a balance between his country’s relations with China and the US.
In his foreign policy, Foreign Affairs Minister Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara has stressed on the importance of the economy, security, and technology. However, according to Panitan Wattanayagorn, a security and international relations expert, the government’s policy statement on foreign affairs wasn’t any different from that of its predecessor’s.
Panitan questioned how the new government would handle the crisis in Myanmar, given Thailand’s historical position of neutrality in the conflict. He emphasized the necessity for a clear plan on how to discuss the crisis with other ASEAN members. This becomes even more important, he said, as Thailand looks towards asserting its prominence in international relations.
Addressing Thailand’s relations with the US and China, he stated that Thailand’s aim should not be to strike a balance between the two superpowers but to distance themselves or get close on certain issues as per the nation’s interest. According to Panitan, BRICS economies representing 42% of the global population is a force that Thailand should pay attention to.
Anekchai Rueangrattanakorn, a lecturer at Chulalongkorn University’s faculty of political science, highlighted the government’s focus on increasing national income through proactive economic diplomacy with existing partners and new markets. He said the prime minister’s speech made the international community understand Thailand’s neutrality.
Oratai Soparat, from Naraesuan University Social Science Faculty, opined that legitimacy building should come from Thailand respecting democratic values, and ensuring freedom of expression, as well as abiding by international norms. The government should also focus on securing the western and southern borders of Thailand.
Lastly, Pol Maj Gen Supisarn Bhakdinarinath voiced that the new government should promote Thailand’s soft power, including Thai boxing, local dishes and produce, fresh tourist locations, and cultural World Heritage sites. Moreover, the government should support the production of carbon-neutral products for global markets.
All said and done, the essence of the Thai Government’s strategy is to put its best foot forward on the global stage. The success of this strategy is yet to be determined, as the world watches Prime Minister Srettha’s adept maneuvers in this intricate dance of diplomacy.